LINGUIST List 13.816

Mon Mar 25 2002

Media: Language Death: Wall Street Journal

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Doug Whalen, Wall Street Journal editorial/Language Death

Message 1: Wall Street Journal editorial/Language Death

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 14:44:05 -0500
From: Doug Whalen <>
Subject: Wall Street Journal editorial/Language Death

 On Friday, March 8, 2002, page W13, the Wall Street Journal 
published an editorial by John J. Miller entitled: "How do you say 
'extinct'?: Languages die, the United Nations is upset about this." 
Miller's basic point is that promoting minority languages entails a 
"careless embrace of multiculturalism" that "gives short shrift to 
the interests and choices of people in tiny language groups." Miller 
makes many mistakes, including confusing language change with 
language death and, by extension, the death of entire language 
families with language change. He is dismissive of native culture, 
preferring the "reality" --his word-- "that most people would rather 
eat a Big Mac than a fistful of beetle larvae." He says that the 
reason "some languages are disappearing is precisely that their 
native speakers don't regard them as quite so precious" as linguists 
make them out to be. He shows no recognition of the many factors 
ranged against minority languages, and even against a "decision" 
about abandoning a language.
 I have written a response, but it will probably not be published. 
If it is not, I may post it here.
 Doug Whalen DhW
Doug Whalen (
Haskins Laboratories
270 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
203-865-6163, ext. 234
FAX: 203-865-8963
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